When I was a child, one of my earliest memories is of my mother and her four sisters sitting in our cramped, yellow linoleum kitchen drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and talking about Star Trek.
Their talk of William Shatner was mostly non-verbal, consisting of giggles and nudges and fanning themselves with supermarket fliers. De Kelley’s blue eyes made them blush. But they spoke of Leonard Nimoy in hushed tones, describing him as beautiful, a word I never heard them ever use to describe another man. His ethnicity was a mystery to them-- Ukraine seeming just as alien as Vulcan. They craved Spock’s calm, his honesty, his loyalty--so different from the men in their own lives.
They talked about the Enterprise as if it were a real place to be. They went there when news of the Vietnam war and what they thought was the end of the Civil Rights Movement at the death of Bobby Kennedy so soon after Dr. King became too much to bear. For one hour a week, Star Trek was a place to seek and to hide, a place of solace and of healing--with NichelleNichols giving them hope for their own daughters.
Beginning in 2005, in the space of about eighteen months, I lost both of my parents, my grandfather and an uncle. My dog died and my brother went off to war. The Enterprise was where I retreated when I felt myself begin to crumble under the weight of it all. Star Trek brought me back to the memory of that melted-butter kitchen, of being cuddled in my aunt’s lap while she fed me sips of cool, sweet coffee from a spoon. I felt myself coming back to Earth and my center of gravity return.
Later, my brother told me that every night he spent in Iraq , he lay in his bunk and watched Deep Space 9 and Voyager on a tiny portable DVD player. “Otherwise, I don’t know if I would’ve made it,” he said.
I listen to the fan boys bicker about canon and continuity and technology or whatever and I just laugh. I can’t worry my pretty little head over details like that.
I only know that just the opening music from the original series has always had the power to thrill me to my bones, soothe my broken heart or lift my grief for a moment. I hear the high, clear tones of those first four notes, like bells calling monks to prayer, then the sweet clarion of a horn heralding the appearance of the Enterprise . A small smile touches my lips and I feel like a kid again. Suddenly, I want to go, to be there with Spock and Uhura, Kirk and McCoy; and in that second, no matter what else in happening in the world, I fall head-over-heels into the black.